Monday, November 28, 2016

Family Dynamics... Fictional or Otherwise

I come from a big family. Well, big enough. A brother, two sisters, and a step-brother, with whom I grew up. And a half brother with whom I didn't. Three sets of grandparents. Lots of uncles and aunts. And cousins. Numerous great aunts and uncles, in Mum's family, whose names I could never get straight, or whether they were Grammy's brother or sister, or Grampy's. Funnily enough, I seem to remember all the greats, not as individuals, but as pairs. Aunt Laversa and Uncle Sam. Aunt Ada and Uncle Ernest. Aunt Lenora and Uncle Ben. Then there were Grammy's two brothers who married sisters, making all their children what we called "double cousins." Yep. That's a pretty big family. And pretty complex, I'd say. So even though Hubby and I don't have kids, family, and family dynamics, has always been important to me. Important, enriching, infuriating, always fascinating, and the subject of endless analysis and story-telling. I could write a book. We all could. Which is where I'm going with all this. Books about family dynamics.

Hen's nesting box with three eggs.
Like Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeny's book The Nest about which so much has been said and written lately. You can't wade through a book store these days without tripping over piles of this book. In fact, we read it for my book club this month. "And what do I think of it?" you ask. Hmmm. I almost put it down after a few pages. The opulent wedding in the opening scene, the older guy seducing the young waitress, and whisking her off in his rented Porsche... ick. That's so not even close to anything I am interested in reading. But I persisted. I was pulled in. Sweeney's writing style is flawless. She can spin a good yarn. Make her settings come alive. But... still... this novel ultimately left me cold. 

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The premise of the book, you may or may not know, is that four middle-aged siblings are waiting to inherit their legacy, dubbed "the nest," which will come to them when the youngest turns forty. Their industrialist father did not want their inheritance to become the making of them. Instead he contrived to leave a reasonable sum, not a fortune, to be inherited when they were all middle-aged. Thus it would merely be something extra they could use to add to what they would have obviously made of their lives already. Ha. Thanks to the rising markets and careful investing by the trustee, the sum grew enormously. And then was depleted by their mother to help the eldest out of a jam. Depleted by a lot. Most of the book deals with the various messes, financial and otherwise, all the children have made of their lives. Why they really, really need their inheritance. And how pissed they are at the brother who was in the jam. Janet Mashin in the New York Times says the book is of the "squabbling sibling genre." Yep. And in a scathing review in the Globe and Mail, Marissa Stapley says: "never before have I read anything that so fully deserves to be tweeted about with the hashtag #firstworldproblems." Oh, thank-you for saying that, Marissa. Her advice to book clubs which she feels will ultimately be reading and discussing this book is priceless: "Do me a favour and let the discussion be about something other than the ways in which you identify with these characters, and more about the ways in which we can all be more, while consuming and wanting for less of what we already have." Damn, I wish I had read that before my book club meeting.  

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney source
I feel a bit guilty panning The Nest. I mean, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney looks like a really nice, pleasant person. And it is her first novel. Still, she's not some neophyte writer toiling away in an unheated garret, but a veteran of twenty years of non-fiction freelance writing, with lots of connections in the publishing and writing world, who pocketed a million dollar advance to write the book. So... maybe I don't feel that guilty. 

Anne Enright's novel The Green Road.
When we were discussing Sweeney's book at book club the other night, I couldn't help contrasting it with a very different novel about family dynamics which I read recently. Anne Enright's The Green Road is as gritty and punchy as Sweeney's is punch-pulling. I remarked on the coincidence of reading two books simultaneously about families with a widowed mother, four middle-aged children, one of whom is gay, one of whom works in the arts, and one of whom is a stay-at-home mother. But although the siblings in Enright's book also squabble, they are very different from the family in Sweeney's book. Enright creates complete characters. Lovely, and flawed, and totally sympathetic, even when they do abhorrent things. As Alex Preston says in his review in The Guardian: Enright's characters are "battered, beautiful, dancing to the music of Enright's exquisite style." 

Anne Enright. Picture from The Irish Times.
Anne Enright  source
I won't go into the plot of Enright's book, except to say that it is a novel about the need to escape, or move away, and then about the pain and solace of coming home. You can read more about it here in James Woods' beautifully written review in the New Yorker. I love how Woods thinks, and how he writes. He says that Anne Enright's book is "true and rueful." That she understands what it is to be an adult, to be middle-aged, to feel that an "impostor has grown up around oneself, choking off one's own youth." He says that Enright shows us how, even though children grow up, and parents grow old, "beneath the social achievements of adult life beat the wings of childhood." Now that's beautiful. 

A green road in the Republic of Ireland, picture from The Guardian.
A green road in the Republic of Ireland   source
I have one more book that I want to mention. One that I've yet to read, but which I read about in the December issue of Vogue, in an article entitled "Dad, Interrupted" by Jeanne Darst. Darst's 2011 memoir Fiction Ruined My Family, is the story of her growing up as the youngest child of an alcoholic mother and a journalist/novelist father, the publication of which destroyed her relationship with her father. And needn't have.

It seems to me that, as a writer, critic, and journalist, her father might have understood the need for his daughter to write her book. Might have been more generous and less critical. Apparently he told family friends who mentioned that they were enjoying Jeanne's book to "hold off on reading until he could send them his "notes." His notes on what [she] had gotten wrong came in at 140 pages. The book was 303."  As she says in the article, "I assumed [my father] would see the book as my book, not the book, about our family." 

Jeanne Darst's memoir, Fiction Ruined My Family
I really liked Jeanne Darst's article, and I hope I enjoy the memoir as much. I've ordered it from the library, so I'll let you know what I think after I've read it. I already know from this article and another one I read in Vogue a while ago, that Jeanne Darst is funny and wry, and a good writer who has her own demons to quell. She says she "inherited alcoholism from her mother and writing from her father," and she "doesn't know which one is worse." And I also know from her writing that she tells it like it is... or at least as she sees it. As she put it: "Drunk or sober, I have a lifelong case of what Dorothy Parker called "the frankies." 

This most recent article in Vogue is about her hoped for reconciliation with her father. How she dreams of giving her son the Christmas he wants. They'll fly from Los Angeles to New York for an east coast Christmas, with "massive amounts of snow, rambunctious cousins, the works." And maybe "at midnight Mass this Christmas Eve, [her] nine-year-old son will sit beside [her] 83-year-old father as he theatrically belts out 'Adeste Fideles."" Maybe. 

Stories of family angst, of the often flawed dynamic between parents and children, brother and sister, father and daughter are hard to read whether they're fictional or otherwise. Hard, but so worth reading. Worth reading, that is, if they are handled carefully, honestly, and with the intent to, not just entertain, but to illuminate the nature of family. Which is, according to James Woods, the most perfect "conduit for the transfer of misery and the source of all joy." 

Gad. That's heavy stuff for a Monday evening. 

And speaking of families. First families, to be precise. You may remember that I swore off Vogue last spring, but I broke my own rule and bought the December issue of Vogue because of the cover story on Michelle Obama. A wonderful article written by Jonathan Van Meter, and photographed by Annie Leibovitz. And I have to say that the whole issue is top notch. The articles, the fashion editorials, everything.  I was impressed. Guess they pulled out all the stops with this one. Good show, Anna et al.

Now. What are your favourite books, fictional or otherwise, about family dynamics?  We're waiting with pencils poised. 

Linking up today with Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb  and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Friday, November 25, 2016

Keeping Winter Real ... In Fashion Blogger Land

Sometimes I think that maybe I'm too immersed in fashion-blogger-land for my own good. That maybe I subscribe to far too many fashion websites, e-mail updates from fashion brands, fashion blogs, Pinterest and Instagram accounts exclusively about fashion, yadda, yadda... you name it. All this in the name of staying current with what's going on out there in fashion-land. Which frequently, I have to say, has little or nothing to do with what's going on in my own small closet... or in the closets of anyone I know. Even more so during the winter... especially during a Canadian winter.

Ottawa commuters waiting for their bus during a winter storm that hit Ottawa in February 2013. CTV photo.
Massive snowstorm hits Ottawa in February 2013  source
Take for instance, the "cold shoulder" sweater. Now, I'm not much of a fan of the "cold shoulder" look; you know, those tee shirts and blouses with the cut-out shoulders which were all the rage last summer. But I could at least see the sense of them in the summer. When colder shoulders might be desirable. But when I saw this Nordstrom ad for a "cold shoulder" chunky knit sweater, I had to laugh. Really? Does that make sense to you? 

Nordstrom chunky cold shoulder sweater in charcoal.

Which made me think of the off the shoulder look below from Balenciaga. As Morwenna Ferrier asks in her article in The Guardian: is it a jacket or is it a stole? According to Ferrier's article, Top Shop's creative director Kate Phelan is embracing off the shoulder puffer jackets (can't quite believe I'm even writing that) in a big way. Saying they represent a "new sense of heightened reality happening in fashion...." Ok-ay. And, Ferrier goes on to say that, while the Balenciaga version is only 'styled' off the shoulder, the Top Shop version, which she dubs "winter's answer to the Bardot top," is designed to fit like a stole. The "ready-off-shoulder" coat, as Ferrier puts it, requires perhaps more "commitment" than the Balenciaga version. Unlike the Balenciaga coat, there is no way to pull the Top Shop coat up over one's shoulders when one is, inevitably, freezing one's butt off. Or one's shoulders. Ha. 

Red Balenciaga puffer coat with the off the shoulder look, winter 2016
Balenciaga's "cold shoulder" down jacket. source
And since fashion is known for going from one extreme to the other, I present what Disney Roller Girl calls the "duvet coat." Love that term. And I actually love the colour of this Marques Almeida coat. And it certainly would be toasty warm in a Canadian winter. Nevertheless, I think this might be just a teensy bit too much coat for me. That collar would certainly be a driving hazard. Still, if the early snow we've had this year, which doesn't seem prepared to go anywhere, is a harbinger of the winter to come... wearing too much coat might be preferable to wearing not enough coat.

Marques Almeida down coat, winter 2016
Marques Almeida AW 2016 source
The other coat that seems really big (no pun intended) this winter is the faux fur. I love faux fur coats. I have ever since I didn't get one for Christmas when I was nine or ten. You see, one night a few weeks before Christmas when I was nine (or ten), my mum brought home a lovely, cream, fake-fur coat (much like the one on the right below) for me to try on, saying that our neighbour, Penny, was wanting to buy it for her niece who was my age and size. In fact, the coat was for me, but Mum was reluctant to spend her money if the coat didn't suit. So of course, it fit perfectly, and I inwardly swooned. But when Mum asked if I would like a coat like that, I demurred. In my nine-year-old head I thought I knew that Mum could never afford such a coat, and so to avoid getting my own hopes up, I tried to be grown-up and practical, and said that it wasn't for me, and, anyway, it would probably get dirty too easily. So Mum returned it. Gad. She really wanted me to have it, and I really wanted it... and we were like those two characters in that O. Henry story "The Gift of the Magi." I learned my lesson that year. Always tell the truth, people, especially about presents which come disguised as gifts for other little girls. 

Faux fur coats from Marni, Top Shop, and Made to Measure
Marni Shearling coatTop Shop pink faux fur, Made to Measure faux fur coat
Unlike the off-the-shoulder puffer coat, faux fur coats make a lot of sense to me. They're warm, and they look great, and they don't cost the earth. But I did have to laugh when I read this post on the blog Le fashion, about "teddy bear coats." Reminded me of the time, years ago, when a student of mine came into my class wearing a vividly spotted, faux fur coat. Seriously, that coat looked like it was made from the sabre-toothed tiger on the Flintstones cartoon. "Allison," I admonished, in my best, stern teacher voice, "how many stuffed animals had to die to make that coat?" She stopped, looked quizzical, then rolled her eyes, "Ha ha. Good one Ms. B."  So yea. I like faux fur. I just have a hard time with the coats that look like they might have had a previous life as some little kid's stuffed animal. But if you like that look, and I'll admit that it's starting to grow on me (a little), there are a few pretty ones here

Faux fur coats aside, I'm not fond of the cartoon sabre-toothed tiger look. Especially in boots. Especially those with four inch platform soles. Like these Maison Margiela boots which were featured in Elle magazine's 10 Most Wearable Winter Trends for 2016. Most wearable, eh? Oh my. These boots made me chuckle. Winter. Cold. Ice. I spy a broken ankle just waiting to happen. 

Maison Margiela faux fur, platform boots from winter 2016
Martin Margiela boots source
So, yep, there are a few trends in fashion-land which have me scratching my head. But that doesn't mean there aren't lots of examples of chic, comfortable, realistic winter looks out there. Outfits that won't look ridiculous on me now that I'm a woman of a certain age. That won't have me freezing my butt off, nor looking like a walking example of fashion victim-hood. Outfits like these ones.

Two winter looks from
From Sandra

Green scarf and sweater and grey coat on
From Le
  Gorgeous, lovely, layered outfits, that keep fashion real, and are warm enough for a Canadian winter. With great boots, luxurious scarves, and fierce coats combined with panache and enough elan (love that word) to inspire me, and reaffirm my belief in fashion. And make me want to get dressed even on the coldest, snowiest days.

So yea, I probably do pay too much attention to all the fashion palaver on the web and in magazines. And sometimes it exasperates me. But I'm never put off for long. That's because, to me, fashion is like that crazy, lovable, wonderful, embarrassing at times, but always interesting aunt or cousin. Sure sometimes they're weird, and silly, but they're always fascinating, and so entertaining, and you love them to death. 

So while I'm here keeping winter fashion real... or trying to... what have you been up to, folks? 

Fashion-wise or otherwise?

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeWhat I WoreStyle Me WednesdayThursday Favourite ThingsFun Fashion Friday, and Saturday Share Link-Up.

Monday, November 21, 2016

As Long As You're Dressed For It

Winter has come, folks. Mother nature threw us a curve ball yesterday, and suddenly our predicted flurries turned into fifteen cm of snow. And high winds. And, as of 5 o'clock this afternoon, it's still snowing. Why, it's so miserable even the geese are leaving. This November is turning out so very different from last year. Remember last year, with its sunny days? And its sunny ways ... but let's not go there.

Geese leaving the Rideau River during the first big snowfall of the season
Our resident flock of Canada geese...going, going, almost gone. 
So this morning, after lingering over his third cup of tea, and with much groaning and rueful laughter, Hubby swathed himself in his winter woollies for the first time this year and braved the elements. His intention was to shovel the back step, dig the barbeque out of a snowdrift so he could put the winter cover on, plow the driveway, and the sidewalks. And then begin to dig the three foot snow drift out of the ditch beside our driveway. So he could then shovel the huge pile of leaves which blew in the other day, before the snowfall, and which he has been meaning to remove because they are blocking the culvert which runs under the driveway. Country living is complicated. I know my mum is reading this and saying, "Ha. You call that country living?" Anyway. Hubby was wrapped and layered up to the eyeballs, and groaning, as he headed out the door this morning. 

And me... I was very sympathetic. I reminded him of the many, many times he teased me when I'd sigh and moan about the cold. "Come on, Suz. Winter is great... as long as you're dressed for it." "Come on, Stu..." I chortled. Well, you can guess at the rest. Not sure that was helpful of me, actually. 

But I had troubles of my own this morning. Like, what to wear to start my Christmas shopping? I had planned to wear my new Stuart Weitzman boots and these comfy, black Vince leggings. And I intended to give my burgundy Theory shirt an outing. Bought in 2007, this shirt has been a workhorse. And it's the perfect colour to go with my new Max Mara coat. And to add a bit of interest, I'd planned to wear this long, gauzy cashmere scarf. The colour works well with my new coat and the burgundy shirt. I'd be comfortable in the light coat. And most importantly not too hot for mall shopping. Now, though, it looked as if being too hot was the least of my worries.

Theory shirt, Max Mara coat, Holt Renfrew cashmere scarf, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman boots, Anne Marie Chagnon earrings, Marc Jacobs bag        Theory shirt, Max Mara coat, Holt Renfrew cashmere scarf, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman boots, Anne Marie Chagnon earrings, Marc Jacobs bag

Okay, so a Plan B was definitely in order. First, I layered a pair of pantyhose under my leggings. Yep. I know it might be weird, but I wear pantyhose under most of my pants all winter. I can't stand having cold legs. I still wanted to wear my burgundy shirt, so I hauled a light-weight cashmere sweater out of my drawer. I used to wear this cream, cable knit sweater a lot when I worked; it's great over a cami or a tee shirt with dress pants. And although I don't wear it often anymore, it didn't go in the big "curated closet" cull. Mostly because you never know when you might need a nice light sweater. Like today. It will add warmth, but not bulk, under my light coat.

Theory shirt, Holt Renfrew cashmere sweater, Max Mara coat, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman boots, Anne Marie Chagnon earrings     Theory shirt, Holt Renfrew cashmere sweater, Max Mara coat, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman boots, Anne Marie Chagnon earrings

Before I go on, I want to show you the earrings I bought a couple of weeks ago at Magpie Jewellry. I stopped in while boot shopping to see if they had any new Anne Marie Chagnon pieces. And I bought these studs. They're a little chunky, kind of pink and kind of burgundy depending on how the light hits them, and I love them with all the burgundy I'm wearing this season. You can find the same pair in indigo on Anne Marie Chagnon's website here

Theory shirt, Max Mara coat, Anne Marie Chagnon earrings

Now, back to the layering. I added my burgundy wool scarf. And this old toque and mittens. I was bundled, but not necessarily to the eyeballs, like Hubby. I'd be warm enough on my way to and from the car. Even with the snow and the wind. My hat and scarf could come off when I reached the mall and be stashed in my bag. Or even left behind in the car if I used the underground parking. So, off I went. 

Theory shirt, Holt Renfrew cashmere sweater, Nordstrom scarf, Max Mara coat, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman bootTheory shirt, Holt Renfrew cashmere sweater, Nordstrom scarf, Max Mara coat, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman bootTheory shirt, Holt Renfrew cashmere sweater, Nordstrom scarf, Max Mara coat, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman boots.
But... then... I saw out the bedroom window that Hubby was still gamely shoveling in the ditch. Maybe that snow drift was a bit higher than three feet. Maybe, now that I was all bundled, I should go out and help him, you might be saying. What? Are you crazy? In my good coat? 

Still. Sigh. You might have guessed where this is going. I guiltily un-bundled myself from my good clothes, and got re-bundled in my sweats and ski jacket to go help. But by then, Hubby was back inside. Stamping snow off his boots. All done shoveling, and ready for a hot cup of tea. So, we had tea, and chatted about our trip plans. And by then I'd lost all interest in getting re-re-bundled back into my good outfit for shopping. 

Besides, the roads were probably a mess. And it was still snowing. And I could always start my shopping another day, couldn't I? 

You know, Hubby's right; winter can be wonderful. As long as I'm dressed for it. But driving in a snowstorm is never wonderful. If it's one thing I hate more than the idea of battling Black Friday sale line-ups... it's the thought of battling traffic tie-ups in a snow storm.... when I don't have to. 

And since I'm retired... I don't have to. 

I mean, there's always tomorrow. Or next week. 

A lull in our first big snow storm of the season. Rideau River near Manotick.
A lull in the storm. Look at the snow in that overhang. Somebody should shovel that off.

How about you, friends? Started your Christmas shopping yet? Had any snow? How easy is it for you to be dissuaded from leaving the house on a miserable day...when you don't really have to go?

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeWhat I Wore, Style Me Wednesday, A Labour of LifeTop of the World Style Link-upThursday Favourite ThingsPassion 4 FashionFriday FindsFun Fashion Friday, and Saturday Share Link-UpFall Favourite Finds.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Seasonal Musings: Late Afternoon Walks, Good Books, and Black Friday et al

'Tis the season, folks. The clocks have been turned back. The sun sets an hour earlier now. Some days Hubby and I are pressed to get our walk in before dark. It used to be a tradition for us on Sundays, in the late fall, to pop dinner in the oven and then go for our walk. Returning to the lovely smell of roasting chicken... or roasting something. Ironically, now that we don't have to wait for Sunday, we don't very often do the big roast chicken, mashed potato, and gravy thing any more. Still we love the late afternoon walks. And when we time it right... we are treated to views like this as we turn and head for home. 

November sunset, near Rideauview Golf Course, Manotick Ontario
Our sunset walk along the edge of Rideauview Golf Course, near Manotick
Besides the early sunsets, another herald of the changing season is that I've had the winter tires put on my car. Whoo hoo. Exciting times on the Rideau. Then I cleaned and waterproofed (winterized) all my boots. And sharpened my skates. I'm preparing for the inevitable, which may or may not come this weekend. Snow flurries are predicted for Sunday. Only flurries, mind, so we probably won't be skiing anytime soon. But it's best to be prepared, don't you think? 

November field along the Osgoode Trail, near Osgoode, Ontario.
Farm fields along the Osgoode Trail
In other exciting news, south of the border, our American friends are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Followed closely by Black Friday. A tradition which has lately been exported to Canada... and even Britain, I hear. Last year, when I was shopping the week before American Thanksgiving, I was surprised when a store clerk "reminded" me of their "Black Friday" sale the following week. "Bu-ut," I queried, "why are we having Black Friday sales?" She was astounded that I should even formulate such a question. But my research (limited though it may be) shows that I am indeed not crazy. Black Friday sales in Canada are relatively new, and began only a few years ago to combat rising cross-border shopping. I guess Canadian retailers want Canadians to shop at home instead of trying to cash in on the reputedly fabulous deals south of the border. 

What a crazy, crazy day Black Friday has become. Stores started opening earlier and earlier on Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving. Then even moving into the evening (and now the afternoon) of Thanksgiving Day itself. I guess the idea is for everyone to have a nice holiday, except retail workers. Huge crowds of people looking for deals queue for hours and hours. And for a few years things seemed out of control at many stores. There's the story of the Toys R Us shopper who threatened to shoot other shoppers when they protested her cutting into line. Or the story of a woman who, in what this article calls an "act of competitive shopping," pepper sprayed other shoppers to clear a path to the discounted X-boxes. Or most disturbing of all, the fact that, in 2008, a Walmart employee in a New York store was killed. According to this New York Times article, the temporary worker was fatally injured when a growing crowd of 2000 impatient shoppers banged on the glass, and pressed against the sliding doors until they bowed under the pressure and shattered, allowing the mob to flow into the building trampling several workers in their path. Okay, I won't go on. Except to say that it looks like retailers did eventually get the message. This NY Times article describes the elaborate safety and crowd calming strategies that many stores have designed to prevent other tragedies. 

But... I have a fool proof method to stay safe and calm on Black Friday. One I've employed for years. And which I also use on Boxing Day. Stay home. Make a pot of tea. And curl up with a good book. I sound smug, don't I? But, you know folks, I can't think of anything that I want to buy that is worth hours and hours in any line-up. 

Late afternoon on the dam behind Watson's Mill in Manotick Ontario
Late afternoon on the dam behind Watson's Mill, in Manotick
And so what are those 'good books' of which I speak, you might be asking. Well, I've just finished Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Enjoyed it. I'm currently reading Green Road by Anne Enright. Enjoying it, too... even if it is a bit dark. And when I'm finished, I have Christopher Brookmyre's Bred in the Bone waiting for me. I have a feeling that after Cleave's depiction of the siege of Malta and war-torn London, followed by Enright's dark and wonderful novel of Irish emigration, the AIDS crisis, and the despair of aid workers in Africa, among other things... I'll be well ready for a good murder mystery with some wry humour. Which I know is what Brookmyre will serve up. 

Afternoon sunset behind Watson's Mill on the Rideau River, Manotick Ontario
Sunset behind Watson's Mill in Manotick
Now, back to those late season, late afternoon walks. For the past week, Hubby and I've been returning from our walk just as the evening chill settles in. Hubby will build a fire in the wood stove and, later, we'll settle down with a glass of wine, and dinner on our laps in front of the television. We've been spending quality time each evening in the fictional town of Market Shipborough where the charming BBC series starring Stephen Frye is set. I adore Stephen Frye. We borrowed all three seasons of Kingdom from the library, and have been utterly captivated by the series. It's gentle and quirky, well written and superbly acted. Kind of like Doc Martin, except with lawyers, and not in Cornwall. 

 BBC series Kingdom, starring Stephen Frye
Stephen Frye in Kingdom
A long walk, a glass of wine and a lovely British comedy... the perfect way to escape, for an hour or two, from this crazy world. And just what we need to help us unwind from the travails of everyday life. You know, the usual things. Like the washing machine packing it in and flooding the basement floor (albeit only a little.) The gas leak in our sun room stove. The old rusted-on taps which could not be disconnected from the old washing machine in order to make way for the new one. The plumber (for the taps) and the gas man (for the stove) both scheduled to arrive in the same afternoon... until the power outage forced a reschedule. Oh, yea... the power outage which blew up our back-up sump pump, requiring an emergency repairman... if you've ever lived on a river, or in a flood plain, you'll know how important a basement sump pump is. So...I'm counting... I think that makes three repairmen in one day. Oh yea... and the delivery of the new washer after everything else was tickety boo. Phew. 

But afterwards...well... there was a sunny late, late afternoon walk and one final episode of Kingdom to watch. So. Life is good, again. 

I may have my boots winterized, my winter tires on, and my skates sharpened... but you can't prepare for every eventuality, can you? And, considering the season, I keep musing: Why would anyone put themselves through something as stressful and unnecessary as rushing to stand in a ginormous line to be able to save a few dollars in a Black Friday sale when everyday life provides quite enough diversion on its own?

I mean... seriously... I ask you.... why? 

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate. And good luck to those of you who are braving the Black Friday sales.

So now.... it's your turn folks? Any seasonal musings you want to get off your chest? About approaching winter, crazy sales line-ups, or other everyday madness?

Linking up today with Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb  and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Wearing of the (Prada) Green

Ah, it's a grand day in the neighbourhood, so it is. All blue sky and sunshiney. The man is off playing golf. And I'm after having a wee fashion show, so I am. With my new, green Prada jumper. And whatever I can find in my closet that goes best with it. 

Like this khaki, suede biker jacket that I won last spring on Alyson Walsh's blog That's Not My Age. The khaki suede looks lovely, I think, with my new green sweater. Please note: I have dropped the annoying faux Irish accent... bet you're relieved. Anyhoo... I'm also wearing a Theory white shirt, and Citizens of Humanity cropped jeans. This is a good outfit for a day like today. Crisp, and a bit breezy, but with warm sunshine. No need for a scarf or gloves. Well, you might want gloves if you're raking leaves. Which I'm not. 

Theory white shirt, Prada sweater, M&S khaki suede jacket, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots        Theory white shirt, Prada sweater, M&S khaki suede jacket, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots

These are my new Stuart Weitzman ankle boots. I've been looking for boots since August. I couldn't decide if I wanted pull-on, Chelsea-style, which would be very similar to my old Cole Haan boots that I've had for at least four years. And, when you consider the length of time I keep my boots, this would mean, if I bought a similar pair, that I'd be wearing essentially the same style for like eight years. And that's a long time. Ha. Almost as long as that explanation. So... no to the Chelsea boots. Time for a change. Then I thought I might go for something a bit more dressy. A dressier ankle boot would look lovely with a few outfits, but I'd probably not get enough wear out of them And they would not be as comfortable as something more rugged. So I opted for rugged. I like how the detail on these boots makes them look like brogues. I like the suede on the sides. And the fact that they are narrow at the top, so my cropped pants fit over them neatly. I tried tucking my cropped pants into my old boots, and just felt silly. I admire that style on other people, but it's not for me. 

Citizens of Humanity jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots
My new rugged Stuart Weitzman boots
But let's get back to my new Prada sweater. I also tried it over my white Vince turtleneck, under my old, green Max Mara tweed blazer. With these cropped khaki jeans from Massimo Dutti. And my new Stuart Weitzman boots. That's a lot of green, I know, but I think it works.

Max Mara jacket, VInce turtleneck, Prada sweater, Massiom Dutti cropped khaki pants, Stuart Weitzman boots, earrings Magpie Jewellry, vintage brooch
The wearing of the green, green, and green
It's hard to tell from the photos, but this blazer is deep green with caramel, and gold, and even a few lilac flecks. I'm wearing it with gold stud earrings from Magpie Jewellry, and my mum's gold feather brooch from the sixties. 

Max Mara jacket, VInce turtleneck, Prada sweater, earrings Magpie Jewellry, vintage brooch
Love my mum's old brooch with this Max Mara jacket 
Sure, it's been a regular "wearing of the green" day in my house. And my fashion show was good craic, so it was. Apologies to those who didn't know that the Irish mean "fun" when they say "craic." And further apologies to those who moan that it should be spelled "crack," and not the "bogus" Gaelic version "craic." And since I am ever in support of those who are anal about grammar and spelling, you can read an amusing article about that little language debate here

I didn't know when I began this post that the traditional Irish ballad "The Wearing of the Green" is a lament for "the repression of supporters of the Irish Rebellion of 1798" (source.)The wearing of green (whether ribbons or shamrocks etc) as a symbol of support for Irish nationalism was banned. And punishment for defying this edict could be harsh. As the lines in the song say: "They're hanging men and women for the wearing of the green." Reading this gave me pause, when I realized that my great-great-great grandfather Michael Sullivan emigrated to Canada a mere twenty years after that rebellion of 1798. Did he speak Gaelic, I wonder? From my limited research, it seems his home town of Tralee, County Kerry was a hotbed of republican fervour. So it's likely that he may have been a Gaelic speaker. And even spelled his name Ó Súileabháin before he landed on the coast of Eastern Canada in 1819, and made his way inland to settle in Victoria County, New Brunswick. 

His great grandson, my grandfather Sullivan, was a lover of all things Irish. Whiskey for one. Also playing the "Irish Washer Woman" on his mouth organ. And finding... maybe not shamrocks, exactly... but four-leaf clovers. I know, I know, the four-leaf clover is not the same as a shamrock which has three leaves. But I always associate it with my grandfather Sullivan who had an almost mystical (to me anyway) ability to find them. Here are three that he found for me when I was a child. I took them home and pressed them into a book. And later I carefully moved them to this photo album. 
 three four leaf clovers found for me by my grandfather in the late sixties.
My three treasured four-leaf clovers 
Ever since I was a kid, I've wondered... how did he do it? Grampy Sullivan was a very big, very tall man. And, by the time he found these clovers, he was not a young man; he'd had cataracts removed, wore glasses as thick as coke bottle bottoms, and would not have found it easy to crawl around on the ground. So how he was able to pick three tiny, four-leaf clovers from the mess of clover in his backyard remains a mystery to me. 

Indeed, the answer seems destined to remain shrouded in the mists of time. And... please... if anyone in  my family knows the secret... for god's sake... don't tell me. 

I like a little mystery in my life.

So that's my version of the "wearing of the green." Prada green, that is. But still, green is green. Right? One of my favourite colours. And as for my three green, four-leaf clovers. Well, I love keeping track of things from the past. And treasuring personal "artifacts"... let's call them. 

They're proof that, in a world that is always changing, we all have roots. 

How about you folks? Do you like to wear green? 

I don't always include links to items I wear in my posts because my blog is not monetized. I write about pieces I've bought or already own.  But since you asked here are a few: 
Massimo Dutti khaki jeans
Stuart Weitzman "Brogen" lace-up boots
M&S khaki suede "Twiggy" jacket is no longer available
 Vince jacket closest thing I could find to my Max Mara tweed 

Linking up this week with these great blogs: Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, #IwillwearwhatIlike at Not Dressed as Lamb, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner, Thursday Link-up at A Labour of Life, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Friday Finds at Forage Fashion, and Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, and Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed as Lamb.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Coping Mechanisms

Phew. It's been a helluva week, hasn't it? 

On Monday when I was writing my last post I was "prepping" for a routine colonoscopy for which I was scheduled the next day. And may I say "prepping" is the nicest possible way to describe that nasty, day-long, 4 litres of gunk to swallow process. If my post on vintage fashion sounded a bit herky-jerky, it's because I wrote it in snippets, in between excusing myself to... well... never mind. Then, since I don't cope well physically with not eating, I had a raging headache, and once the "purging" began, the chills and then the shakes. Finally by bedtime I was so swaddled in robes and shawls that I'm sure I resembled my Irish great-great-great grandmother as she huddled in front of her turf fire during the long, cold winter in County Kerry. The test on Tuesday went well, however, and Hubby and I returned home in sunshine and warm temperatures. Perfect for a late afternoon walk. 

Sunny fall day on the Osgoode Trail, near Osgoode, Ontario.
Osgoode Trail, Tuesday afternoon.
Then, Tuesday evening, we watched the US election coverage. "It's all over, Suz," said Hubby as he decamped to the bedroom with his book about ten o'clock. I hung in until the bitter end. And then the aftermath. Sigh. For another Canadian's response to the American election, click on over to Frances' blog Materfamilias Writes. Frances expresses, so much more eloquently than I can, what I feel... indeed, what everyone I know feels. 

So there was that. And then Leonard Cohen died. Canadian icon, poet, lyricist, singer. Voice of a generation... voice of so many generations, actually. Who just released a new album a couple of weeks ago at 82 years old. I know it's partly the accumulation of a really emotional week... but I find I'm kind of inconsolable.

And now it's Remembrance Day. 

Enough, already. Too much sadness is stressful. And too much stress is not good, as we all know. Aging, even. But I'll let you read about that here if you're interested. 

So... time to take back control. Haul out the tried and true coping with stress mechanisms. Like connecting with friends and loved ones. Taking care of ourselves. Remembering how we coped with past stressful events and repeating what worked then. Like pulling on a fabulous new coat and visiting a favorite spot to feed the ducks on the way to get a haircut. You can't be sad around ducks. Or with freshly cut hair. Well, I can't anyway. 

On the dam at the Manotick Mill, Manotick Ontario. Coat Max Mara, NYDJ burgundy pants, All Saints bag.
In my burgundy coat at the dam beside the Manotick Mill. 
In his post on The Positivity Blog, Henrik Edberg lists 33 ways to deal with stress. He talks about "limiting information intake." Now, that sounds like a great idea. Unplug for a few days from all those social media sites. Nothing like too much information to make you feel helpless, and even more stressed. I don't mean dropping out permanently, just until you regain your equanimity. I've temporarily unfollowed a few people on Facebook. Lovely people, my FB friends, but the repetitive posts of some begin to sound like ranting after a while. And I need a break from ranting. 

And today I'm going to take more of Henrik Edberg's advice and focus on "one thing at a time" and "do what [I] love." Which means, for the next few days Hubby and I are going to ignore CNN and C-PAC and focus instead on something we both love. Travel. We're firming up plans for our next big trip. We're heading south in February. And not to Florida, but to South America. South America has been on Hubby's bucket list since forever. Patagonia in Argentina, especially.

So we're deep into our reading, and planning. We've booked our airline tickets from Ottawa to Buenos Aires and home from Lima. And another flight within Argentina to get us down to Patagonia. And a third to fly into Peru. And we've been conversing via e-mail about a couple of bus tours in Peru. So it's coming together, nicely. Albeit with a few credit card glitches. But we've solved most of those. And once I book the last flight within Argentina today, we'll sit back for a few days and just look at shots of Patagonia. And dream a bit.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina  source 

Mount Fitzroy near El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina
Mount Fitzroy near El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina  source
Then it will be time to get moving again. Hubby will organize the car rentals. And we'll start looking at accommodation, my favourite part of trip planning. And of course, there will be shopping to do. First I'll have to get out all my trekking gear. My ski underwear and light layers. My hot humid weather gear which I haven't worn since we went to Costa Rica in 2014. I'll need new hiking boots. And maybe a lovely new light fleece. I'd better make a list. Sigh. You know how much I love lists. 

And by then my anxiety, my weirdly nebulous feeling of approaching doom will have disappeared as in a puff of smoke. Hopefully. 

In the meantime I'm talking to you guys, which I love, and which always makes me happy. And Hubby is out splitting wood for the fireplace. Whatever works, eh?

Here's a wonderful video of Leonard Cohen on stage in London in 2009. His songs are so dark, that it's easy to overlook his wry sense of humour. He talks here of how long it had been since he was in London, "About fourteen or fifteen years ago when I was sixty years old, " he says, "just a kid with a crazy dream."  Love Leonard Cohen. Love that he said that about being sixty. And as the man says, there "ain't no cure for love." 

You got that right, Lennie. 

And here's a list of ways to cope with stress and anxiety that I found on the American Psychological Society's website. You probably already know most of these. But sometimes it's good to be reminded, don't you think?

Tips for Coping with Stress and Anxiety. From the American Psychological Society's website
American Psychological Association

How about you folks? What makes you happy and takes your mind off your troubles? How do you cope when, even though your life is pretty great, you still feel stressed and a bit overwhelmed?

Linking up today with Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb  and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner